For President’s Day, I could not resist the temptation to tip our hats to the presidents. I have never been able to visit Mt. Rushmore in person, but I hope I get to. It looks breathtaking.
In light of our recent political history, many of us are a little jaded regarding our political leaders. We have on more than one occasion been sold the bill of “hope” and “change” only to find our country in a new war, being more in debt, and our cost of living rising.
I Need a Hero
Bonnie Tyler had the 80’s pop hit “I Need a Hero,” which was probably more at home in Shreck 2 than on the radio. But in spite of its campiness, there is a truth to it. We all want a hero. Humans are designed for mentorship and imitation. That is how children learn, by playing with dolls, toy tools, and so on that help them mimic the behaviors of their parents.
Every good story surrounds a hero. Why else are we so obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel movies, Tolkien, and every other adventure epic?
If you could pick your own Mt. Rushmore (and it was not limited to presidents) who are your four people that would make the cut?
Washington is right up there on my list but does not quite make the cut for me. I am reading a great biography on him right now by Ron Chernow. Cannot recommend it more. He really brings the real Washington, warts and all, to life!
So who would be your top four draft picks? For this exercise, let’s leave aside family members and parents because they are expected to be our primary heroes—at least they should be.
My Top 4 for My Mt. Rushmore
I think if I had the chance to select my own Mt. Rushmore, these are my top picks moving from fourth to first place.
Number 4 — HANNIBAL BARCA (247–184 B.C.)
I think I would make my fourth pick Hannibal Barca, the high commander of the Punic forces in the Punic Wars with Rome. I am not big on war always getting the nod. But what gets me the most is people who take on incredible odds with courage and tenacity. Leadership is about facing uphill battles with courage and determination.
Besides being a brilliant tactician and easily winning most battles, he often did so against forces quite larger. Hannibal was entirely gutsy, taking on huge tasks with a thirst for the challenge.
His greatest claim to fame was crossing the Alps with his army and a host of War Elephants. He lost the greater part of his army in the process, but he nevertheless locked the Romans in their city under the siege. Roman children were playfully chilled with fear for centuries after with the phrase, “Hannibal is at the gates!”
Number 3 — PERPETUA OF CARTHAGE (circa. 180–203 A.D.)
I think my next pick would be Perpetua. Now you are probably saying, “Perpe-who?” Yeah I know. But I cannot help but include her. I think men should not be afraid to have heroines on their list—starting with their mother!!! My mother is big hero because she raised myself and my sister against horrible odds.
But we are not talking about parents in this exercise. Perpetua, ironically was a Carthaginian like Hannibal, but she lived just around 400 years after. She was a new convert to Christianity and fell under persecution.
We don’t know when she was born, but she died in 203 A.D. in sport games. She came from a wealthy noble home. She was a new mother who was still lactating, and so her age was likely late teens or early 20’s. She had to ween her child in prison and hand him over to her Father to prepare for her martyrdom.
She was put in the arena for blood sport in order to get her to recant her faith. They put wild beasts in with them to harry and trample them. She was badly gored and trample by a wild heifer.
Under her visionary leadership, she and her compatriots stood firm refusing to renounce their faith. At the beginning the crowd jeered. But as the spectacle persisted, they began to empathize and then cheer for her and her fellow Christians.
The charade ended when in desperation a soldier or gladiator was ordered to executer her. Weakened by what he just witnessed, the strapping soldier stood limp before her courage, unable to follow through. With her own hand, Perpetua raised his sword to her own throat, his hand still cleaving to it. Then she sliced her own throat dying on that spot.
She was known to have said of her pending martyrdom: “It will all happen in the prisoner’s dock as God wills, for you may be sure that we are not left to ourselves but are all in his power.”
“you may be sure that we are not left to ourselves but are all in his power.” — Perpetua
Number 2 — ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (296–373 A.D.)
I am a big fan of this guy. He is just a symbol of fighting passionately for what one believes in. He was embroiled in an early theological debate over the nature of Christ, that is whether Jesus was of “like substance” homoousios or of “similar substance” with the Father God (homoiousios).
Notice that these two words only differ by one letter, the Greek iota (equivalent of “i”). It is from this debate the world got the cynical phrase, “it does not make an iota’s difference” that is still used today 1700 years later!!!
He was exiled a total of five times in his life, sometimes in danger of his life. Why I put Athanasius so high on my list is that he was an example of standing against unbelievable opposition. Sometimes he stood almost completely alone. For this reason there was coined the Latin phrase for him: Athanasius Contra Mundum — “Athanasius against the world.”
Number 1 — JESUS OF NAZARETH (circa 4 B.C. – 33 A.D.)
And finally, my number #1 draft pick would be Jesus. He would go in my Washington spot on Mt. Rushmore as the most prominent.
Regardless of how you feel about Jesus, from the record of the Bible, he had no match in character and vision. He certainly is the most compelling of history. While most men aim to conquer their enemies, nobody but Jesus came to save his enemies.
Most heroes of history go down in the records by stepping on the necks of their enemies. But Jesus goes down praying for their forgiveness and salvation as they gambled over his garments.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34 )
However important I think mentors are, there is something far more to Jesus. Jesus does not just show us what to do; he does for us what we cannot do. Jesus redeems broken people like us from the moral conundrum of our own weakness.
As we celebrate our national hero’s on President’s day, it is a good time to take stock and consider who your greatest heroes are. Moreover it is a great time to consider what you still need help with. Who can inspire and help you with that? Or who can fix that?
There are things that only God can give us; things that both we and our hero’s best efforts will fail to give. But God does not fail.
Please leave your picks in the comments or on Social Media. I would love to hear what you think!